How to ace lunch interviews? You made it through your first interview! Your second interview is over lunch with your perspective new boss. It is at a great restaurant near their office and you have been there before. What do you need to know? What will the employer look for?
Henry Ford invited job candidates to lunch with him. He would observe if the candidate would salt his food before tasting it. If he did, he would not hire him. If he tasted the food first, he was a person who evaluated situations before taking action. Henry Ford believed in testing his candidates and this was it. Many employers evaluate candidates during lunch interviews for things you never think of.
Are you ready for your test? You expect hard questions, but many employers want to see how you act in different situations such as a lunch interview. A lunch interview means you need to juggle a meal, good manners, answer questions while eating a meal, and still be persuasive. You still need to be aware of being observed while you answer or ask questions.
What is the test? You may not know, but employers are looking for certain traits. It could be character, integrity or certain personality! You cannot prepare for this part so just be natural. Would the employer do something to see how you would react? It is possible. It is more likely that during the meal, he may describe a scenario and ask for your opinion. Remember, they want to see ho w you think. There is no right or wrong answer or is there?
About five years ago I read about how CEOs evaluate candidates based on how they treat waiters in a restaurant. Some may call it the unwritten rule of lunch interviews. Would an employer be above staging something and seeing your reaction? You may never know if it was staged or not! Handling mistakes, poor service or an accident provides insight into the candidate. A person who is nice to the employer and rude to the waiter or to others is not a nice person.
This an interview and you should dress for it. That means the dark suit and good grooming. Do your research and have questions for the employer. Bring along your questions, a portfolio of your best work and anything else you think is important. Manners are important, but you need to juggle that and trying to impress the employer too. Order something simple so you can eat and answer questions without difficulty. You want to appear confident and at ease with the situation.
Arrive early and wait for the employer. Allow the employer to lead, wait for him/her to sit, take the napkin and order. The employer may defer to you to order first with drinks. Keep it nonalcoholic such as ice tea, sparkling water or perhaps even juice. Know what you will order before you get there. It takes the pressure off, if the employer makes a quick selection. Be polite to the server. Don’t make a big deal about a mistake.
Remember the employer sees how you handle everything. Don’t eat too fast, or eat and speak at the same time. Eating too fast or not at all looks as though you are nervous. Small bites will keep you ready to answer or ask questions. Never order dessert unless the employer does. The interview is not over until you are gone. He may observe you waiting for your car or how you handle a problem. You are always being evaluated.
Simple things will prevent you from getting the job. How do you finish the interview? You should have questions or sample of your work to demonstrate your interest in the job. Be conscious of the employer’s time. Make your points and avoids mistakes, how you handle things will either help you get the job or keep you from it. What are you going to do? When you are finished with your meal fold the napkin and leave it by the plate.
This is an extension of an article I wrote recently about How to Ace that Interview? Lunch interviews put you on the spot! Keep in mind that the employer is observing you eating, answering questions and how you deal with problems and people. You can only prepare so much for this type of interview. You can practice the questions, work on your manners and even work on your people skills, but you need to act natural. Most experienced managers or executive see right through someone who is not genuine. Being genuine and confident is important. How to ace lunch interviews?
Photo by: mojosaurus
Money Beagle says
I don’t think I’ve ever been interviewed this way but the stuff you put in here seems like perfect advice. I like the anecdote about Henry Ford. Seems so simple but something he obviously honed in on.
Interviews are tests to see if you fit in. Some may be more obvious than others, but nonetheless they are tests.
Kris @ Everyday Tips says
I had read about the Henry Ford – salt story recently, so now I think of it every time I salt my food.
I have never had a lunch interview. Then again, I haven’t interviewed in 20 years. I would like a (free) lunch interview though!
Over my lifetime, I had one or two that I remember. One of which, I was given an offer. I remember the pressure about thinking of everything that I described. It is hardly a “free” lunch.
Choose wisely on the food too – if you order something too greasy or messy, your odds of looking bad increase exponentially.
Preferably get something you can eat with a fork and knife!
Very true. You want something that cannot go wrong no matter what. Also, something that you can talk and eat at (almost) the same time. These are just some of the things you have to balance and still perform at a lunch interview.
We often discussed Henry Ford when we worked at Ford. The salt example is interesting, and perhaps a little too simplistic. Henry Ford also thought people only wanted black cars and this cost Ford market leadership for a century.
I like your ideas here KC. Although, this post has made me hungry.
Initially, I thought the only color was black! It seems Ford has turned that around in the last few years.
Miss T says
I have never had a lunch interview before.They have always been very formal in board rooms and stuff. Thanks for the tips though. I will definitely reference them if I need.
I had a couple of lunch/dinner interviews, one of which was in a company dining room. It is the ultimate juggling act, eating and talking almost at the same time.
Krants, You’re right on about a good barometer is how people treat waiters. I had an interview with a consulting firm long ago at a steakhouse and the waiter spilled a glass of wine all over me. I didn’t overeact, I was polite and it made a big impact. The hiring manager told me he really liked how I handled the situation and offered me the job!
Interviews are really a test and how you handle the unexpected pays off big. Employers expect candidates to handle a variety of situations with ease. I am glad you passed!
Barbara Friedberg says
Just remember not to eat pasta or a salad, too messy. Choose something easy to eat. And of course, respect the waiters!
Absolutely! I would opt for something easy to eat and talk almost at the same time.
Darren Berardi says
Actually there are some pastas I will order because they come already in bite-size pieces e.g. penne or ravioli. Anything that you can spear with your fork and that doesn’t require a knife to cut is safe in my opinion. Stuff like spaghetti which can whip around and splash you is out! I’d also stay away from things like sandwiches and burgers that you eat with your hands.
I agree, but some people have difficulty with sauces. When I am in these situations, I prefer to keep it simple and not think about it.
very useful and informative article. I like the idea of folding napkin and keeping it beside the plate. I never appeared for lunch interview, now I am prepared.
Small things can make a big difference in an interview. Whether it s a lunch interview or a regular interview, it is still true.
Paula Pant says
That’s a great article – super informative.
When I worked for my dad’s company, I went to lunch once with a man who we were going to potentially forge a close partnership with. We were seated in the waiting area while the restaurant cleared a table. At that time, someone came out, took our drink orders, and the moment he returned with our drinks, our table was ready.
After our hostess lead us to our table, the man — the potential partner — excused himself so that he could return to the waiting area to tip the man who brought us our drinks. It made a strong positive impression.
It is small things like that which reveal your character. When you spend a couple hours with someone, you can really learn about the candidate. It is nearly impossible to fake everything for 2-3 hours.
I had a lunch interview once. My future employer advised I try the soup as it was their specialty. I did, but perhaps he wanted to see if I would spoon the soup away from me at the far side of the bowl! I did, and I didn’t spill any. I couldn’t understand why we were at a restaurant, but I guess I did ok as I was hire. They should have a class in this at college! It could be held at a local restaurant & would be yummy! Rather popular too, I’d guess.
Good idea! I took a Spanish class where we went to a (Mexican) restaurant so we order in Spanish. It was a valuable lesson. I think a practice lunch interview is valuable too and film it. The class could watch the mistakes and learn a lot.
Roshawn Watson says
I did think about the Henry Ford reference when I went on a lunch interview earlier this year 🙂 There are a thousand things going through your head during a series of interviews, and it is easy to want to let your guard down, even though you know you are being evaluated.
It is good to be aware of the things that you mention in this post, so that you can adequately prepare.
You never know what may come up to test you during an interview, these are just some of them.
101 Centavos says
I once had lunch with a candidate who had appalling table manners. Talked with his mouth open and dribbled his food. Luckily, we couldn’t come to terms, and he never got hired.
It is generally small things that will knock you out, particularly when there are many qualified candidates.
World of Finance says
I’ve actually heard about the same salt example. Talking over lunch can reveal a lot about a person. Nice tips.
I think whennever you are in a normal environment and talking for a long time or doing various things, it can be very revealing to an observant person.
I’d never heard of the salt example before – very interesting. I once had a series of lunch interviews. The interviewing process lasted an entire week and the last 3 days were over lunch with different people. I didn’t get the job – maybe it was something I ordered (although it was so long ago I don’t even remember what I ordered!)
In these kinds of situations, you may nt have done anything wrong. They may have just clicked with someone else better.
Buck Inspire says
Awesome advice yet again KC! I’ve never had the pleasure. Never realized there were so many things to think about. But you are right, many things you can’t prepare for like your personality. Nice tips on knowing your order beforehand. Don’t want to come off as wishy-washy.
Lunch interviews are tests of the candidates without rules! You never know what the test encompasses because it lasts between 1-2 hours. Many things can happen and the employer is observing you.
what if the employer orders exactly what you get?
I don’t see any significance, a I missing something? Are you implying that you have a connection?